Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has expressed dissatisfaction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list published today, claiming that the authorities have erroneously excluded lakhs of Indian citizens from the crucial document. "Many genuine Indians -- especially Bengali Hindus -- have been excluded from the NRC while several foreigners have been included. The BJP has to explain what went wrong with the NRC," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
Over 19 lakh people were left out of the NRC list published this morning, requiring them to prove their citizenship in order to avoid government action. While this is a substantial number, it is much lower than the 41 lakh left out of the draft NRC list published last July.
As many as 3.11 crore people have been included in the list, which is aimed at weeding out illegal immigrants that have settled down in the state over the course of decades. This is the second such exercise to be conducted in Assam since 1951.
Tarun Gogoi, who used to head the previous Congress government in the northeastern state, said that the exercise should have been conducted solely on the basis of the Assam Accord-1985. Downplaying reports of BJP leaders such as Himanta Sarma protesting against the NRC list, the former Chief Minister said: "If the BJP is crying (foul), whose responsibility is it? It's the BJP government in the state that has prepared this list. Our position is clear: It doesn't matter if the person is Hindu or Muslim... any individual who's a foreigner should not be included."
Himanta Sarma, who is a member of the state cabinet, had earlier today stated that the list published today cannot be viewed as a "red letter" for the Assamese society. "We had lost hope in the present form of the NRC right after the draft. When so many genuine Indians are left out, how can you claim that this document is a red letter for the Assamese society?" he asked, questioning the logic behind certain districts that border Bangladesh having low exclusion rates.
BJP MLA Siladitya Dev went a step further by dubbing the NRC was part of a "conspiracy to keep Hindus out and help Muslims".
Tarun Gogoi claimed that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had taken credit for 41 lakh people being left out of the draft NRC list last year. "At that time, Amit Shah said that these are all illegal migrants who will be deported. He did not know that most of them are Hindus," he told NDTV, adding that his party will oppose any attempt by the BJP to "communalise" the situation.
The centre has clarified that people whose names don't appear in the final NRC won't be declared foreigners until they have exhausted all legal options. People left out of the NRC can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal, and the time limit to file the appeal has been extended from 60 to 120 days.